Propagating Dracaena marginata plants: 3 techniques

Dracaena marginata propagation

The dragon plant is a tall plant that’s among the easiest to multiply. Dracaena marginata propagation works with any of these  techniques: beheading, stem cuttings, and layering. You’ll have an unlimited supply!

Propagating Dracaena marginata

Like all plants of the Dracaena family, the Madagascar Dragon plant propagates through its stems.

In the wild, it flowers with delicious scented blooms and bears seeds.

In our own cooler climates, blooming is very rare. The best way to get new D. marginata plants is to either behead it or try out stem cutting propagation.

As time passes, your Dracaena marginata will grow tall and spindly. Depending on the technique, you can create from 2 to 10 new Madagascar dragons from the leggy stems of a single plant.

Beheading a Dracaena marginata

This technique yields two new plants: the top of the stem you cut off will grow roots, and the bottom part will re-grow new leaves.

All you have to do is:

  • cut the leafy tip off the stem. Don’t cut too high: include at least one or two nodes in the dragon plant cutting.
  • a node is the swollen bump that forms rings at regular intervals along the stem.
  • place the cutting in a vase or glass of water. The nodes must be immersed.
  • roots will sprout from the nodes within a few weeks (months if in winter).
  • transplant your new dracaena marginata to a pot when roots are about an inch (2.5 cm) long.

Keep the older stem in its old pot: it will sprout leaves at nodes near the tip.

Dracaena marginata cuttings

Cuttings are easily prepared. Within a portion of stem, cells exist which can turn into either roots or leaves. Chopping a stem into shorter sections yields as many new dragon plants as you have pieces. Ideally, sections should be about 6 inches long (15 cm) or more to guarantee success, but this can still work even if parts are only 2 inches long (5 cm).

Here are the steps to prepare Dracaena marginata cuttings:

Usually for cuttings people recommend having all cuttings the same length, but for Dracaena marginata it’s a good idea to have different lengths. That way, you can plant them together in the same pot and get leaves at several levels. For example, cut pieces at 6, 10 and 14 inches long (15, 25 and 35 cm).

Important: Mark which side is “up” with a pencil or make a small notch at the “top” so you don’t plant it up-side down.

  • Dragon plant cuttings planted in a fieldDragon plants root well in water directly, but you must change the water every 2-3 days to keep it fresh.
  • Easier: root directly in potting soil mix in individual nursery pots.
  • Make sure the soil mix drains well. Add perlite or clay pebbles if needed.
  • With a stick or pencil, make a hole in the soil at the center of the pot and slide each cutting in its own hole. Make sure the top is upwards!
  • Keep moist but not soggy. Within 3-4 weeks, the first roots form underground. Leaves start budding out from topmost nodes.
  • When roots crawl out from beneath the nursery pot, it’s ready to repot!

Variations on making dragon plant cuttings

Two variations of this technique also work well.

Horizontal stem cuttings on Dracaena marginata

Instead of sticking your stem sections upright, simply press them down horizontally on the moist soil mix. They should be buried halfway into the soil, a bit like a log floating in water. Some of the nodes on the underside will sprout roots, whereas other nodes on the topside will turn into branches with leaves.

As a result, you’ll have several independent plants connected by a stem that will slowly rot away. When you can clearly mark out each distinct dragon plants, you can cut the stem between them and repot them individually.

  • Note: for this technique, it’s important to ensure a lot of air moisture around the cutting, so that the surface of the soil stays humid.

Layering dragon plant stems

Layering and air-layering will both work on Madagascar dragon plants. Most plants you find in garden stores come from layered plants: it’s a sure way to get a new plant going without having any dying off.

  • Notch a portion of the stem. Make the notch with a clean knife. The notch should be horizontal. Only make the notch about a quarter-inch deep (5mm), and at most a half-inch long (1.5 cm), so it doesn’t run around the whole stem.
  • Wrap a sheet of clear plastic around the stem and tie it at the bottom, creating a funnel. Don’t make it too tight, you don’t want to choke the plant. Center the sheet of plastic vertically so that the notch is in the middle.
  • Fill the funnel up with moist, nearly wet soil mix and tie it shut higher up above the notch.
  • In the end, your goal is to make a pouch of humid soil around the stem with the notch at the center of it. The pouch should be at least as large as an egg, and shouldn’t be any larger than a lemon or it’ll get too heavy.

Single shoot of a multiplied dragon plantWatch for moisture in the pouch. It shouldn’t be full of water, but it shouldn’t dry out either. If too dry, squirt a little water in with a syringe or dribble water down the stem from above.

After about 2-4 weeks, you should notice roots starting to reach the sides of the pouch. When they start circling around in the pouch, it’s time to cut the branch off underneath, remove the pouch, and pot the clump!

Images: CC BY-SA 2.0: Ryan Hyde; Pixabay: Ezequiel Octaviano, Kurt Brodsky

Written by Gaspard Lorthiois | Loves helping out, especially when it comes to growing things. Worked in herbal medicine, runs a farm, and dabbles in tech. Master's degree and engineer.